I'd like to go to Japan but I can't speak Japanese. But I'm fluent in Korean. I know that many Korean people can speak Japanese, but can Japanese people also speak Korean?

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    I would encourage you to try to learn to read and speak at least a little Japanese - some phrases, and hiragana and katakana. If nothing else, you will at least recognise a Karaoke parlour when you see one!
    – Strawberry
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 23:02
  • Anecdotally: as an European, I went there on a trip. Everyone was very nice to us and we went to some rural areas where no one could speak English. They still were very polite to us and we had no problems communicating. Don't worry about the language ;) Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


No. Most Japanese people do NOT speak Korean. However, the English language is a required subject in the Japanese secondary education; although English education has not gone very well for Japanese people, in general, most people can understand at least a little bit of English (except, of course, the very old people). (EDIT: As commenters reminded me, there is indeed a increase in the number of young Japanese people who study Korean (in their mean time, or perhaps as a second foreign language in college), due to the popularity of Korean popular culture among the young generation. However, there are not that many of them such that you could randomly run into them on the streets.)

There are places with Korean signs (usually touristy places), but there are far more English signs than there are Korean signs, so there's no real advantage here if you read Korean. In shops frequented by tourists, there are often Korean speaking staff members; but of course, English is almost always more useful. Nevertheless, all of these are almost exclusive to Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka metropolitan areas ("Tomeihan"), and you should expect almost no Korean signs outside of this area (perhaps some in Fukuoka as well, due to proximity to Busan).

If you are able to write some hanja (Chinese characters), however, you might be able to express simple ideas and communicate with Japanese people using them, because virtually all Japanese people know some kanji. Ability to read Chinese characters can often help you understand signs as well. But do not expect too much out of this.

There are around 1 million or so Japanese Koreans (including N/S Korean citizens living in Japan, and Japanese citizens of Korean descent), but you could not tell them apart from the ethnic Japanese, so it's likely not a good idea to try to speak Korean to random people. However, there are a few Korean ethnic enclaves in Japan (such as О̄kubo in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo), and you'll of course have luck speaking Korean in those areas; nevertheless, none of those Korea-towns seem to be popular tourist destinations.

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    While not a large enough number to randomly find someone who can speak the language, due to the popularity to KPOP in Japan, there are many young people studying Korean now as well. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 3:00
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    Also, many Japanese will understand perfectly what you say in English. Fewer people will be confident enough to answer, though. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 17:10
  • @EricDuminil Yep, this is absolutely true. Due to my not-so-great Japanese and not-so-great hearing, sometimes Japanese people attempt to speak to me in English, but when they do so I absolutely prefer that they switch back to Japanese :-) Simply because most Japanese people are really not that great in spoken English
    – xuq01
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 18:38

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